Functional Inkjet Printing in PCB Manufacture

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Pete Starkey speaks with Dr. Luca Gautero, product manager at SUSS MicroTec Netherlands B.V., about advances in inkjet printing, even outside the lab.

Pete Starkey: I’m delighted to speak with Dr. Luca Gautero, product manager at SUSS MicroTec Netherlands, in Eindhoven, who has responsibility for functional inkjet as an additive process in PCB manufacture, with particular emphasis on digital solder mask.

Luca, it’s good to meet with you. I’ve heard a lot about you and read some of your published work on functional inkjet printing.

Luca Gautero: Likewise, Pete, nice to meet you. Your voice and your interviews have been very inspiring for many. I somewhat think that you almost single-handedly created the market need for inkjet printing, didn’t you?

Starkey: I don’t think so, Luca, but I have certainly followed the progress of the technology for more than 20 years since I recognised the potential opportunities for inkjet printing in PCB manufacture. During that time, I have been closely involved with several development groups, both in the equipment and the materials areas, and I have attended and reported on numerous conferences and symposia, as well as speaking with many exhibitors at the trade shows. Solder mask has always been an ultimate objective, but realistically unattainable until recently, for a variety of reasons. It has to do, partly, with printer capability, and partly with ink printability. The formulators have had a difficult job because solder mask becomes a permanent material feature of the PCB and is subject to critical qualification and approval. Generally, if an ink would jet, it wouldn’t pass qualification; and if it would pass qualification, it wouldn’t jet! But because of equipment developers like yourselves working closely with ink formulators, it appears that the ultimate objective has been realised.

So, Luca, please tell us a little about your experience in equipment design and development in the electronics and semiconductor industry.

Gautero: I’ll do my best to keep it short. My experience throughout time and market is best described as someone who improves the given equipment toward a cheaper, faster, or enhanced production. This started during my academic time at Fraunhofer ISE, where a complete photovoltaic pilot line gave the possibility for PhD candidates like me to make the most of each tool installed. Once in the private sector, this approach has continued on several kinds of coatings: anti-reflective, passivation, moisture barrier, semicon packaging, and now, solder mask coating. All of these need a cheaper manufacturing on a larger surface area.

To read this entire interview, which appeared in the February 2021 issue of PCB007 Magazine, click here.


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